Design

The business case for embedded system simulation

17th January 2020
Anna Flockett

When embedded system software development and testing are constrained by the availability of target hardware and systems, the entire business faces problems.

Guest blog written by Sean Evoy, Wind River.

Issues include

  • Slow time to market
  • High capital and operating expenses (CapEx and OpEx)
  • Suboptimal quality management
  • Limited security testing

The pressure to support existing embedded systems across multiple hardware platforms places further stress on development, testing, and IT operations (IT Ops) organisations. This makes DevOps, agile development, and CI/CD difficult or impossible to implement. Advances in hardware and system simulation, as exemplified by Wind River Simics software, have changed the entire picture. Now, with Simics, developers and testers can work in virtual labs using software-based simulations of any target system.


 

The Status Quo

Traditional embedded development processes require access to exact physical hardware and systems for testing, deployment, and support. Hardware and software are set up in physical labs so developers can create embedded systems and write code. Various teams from all need access to these physical labs to complete their work, but the costs to build and support multiple labs is prohibitive. Teams must, therefore, coordinate lab use, significantly slowing down development productivity.

Traditional development is often constrained by access to physical hardware and software.

Business problems associated with the status quo

Using physical hardware and software labs is expensive and slow but it generally works. However, as organisations move towards faster product release cycles, using this method will cause a variety of problems:

·         Development delays: Having to wait for target software and hardware holds back embedded development and makes it nearly impossible to automate the process. This delay forces rushed testing schedules, which limits the extent of testing and results in hindered quality and security.

·         Preventing the implementation of DevOps methods: Software development is moving towards more agile methods and CI/CD techniques. However, implementing these processes using traditional development methods and physical hardware is just not possible. Teams cannot effectively collaborate as required for these DevOps methods when they don’t have adequate access to identically configured hardware/systems.

·         Tool limitations: Existing development tools were not created for debugging complex embedded systems across multiple combinations of devices. Forcing solutions to work in ways they were not intended results in delayed time to market, higher development costs, and lost revenue.

·         Decreased quality and security: Lack of hardware access delays and, therefore, limits testing. In some cases, security tests can cause damage to hardware requiring teams to wait for a replacement. Late product launches are viewed as unacceptable forcing teams to launch products that may not meet high quality or security standards.

Organisations need better solutions to implement efficient agile development methods.

Solution: complete hardware and simulation

One way to address these challenges is to simply eliminate the reliance of physical testing labs and transition to using simulation in virtual labs. Using a solution like Wind River Simics allows multiple teams to simultaneously complete hardware and embedded systems simulation to effectively decouple the software development process from hardware availability. Simics can simulate numerous hardware types and OSes along with a variety of peripherals, boards, and networks so your development team can easily complete:

  • Complex simulation: Simics takes simulation capabilities to a new level. Instead of being limited to simple code, Simics can run a full software stack to simulate systems of any size, while running the same binary that would be used on a physical hardware board.
  • Productive Modeling: Simics enables the modeling of large interconnected systems including those that utilise various combinations of devices, architectures, and OSes. It is even able to simulate systems that don’t exist yet by simulating the activities of boards and peripherals based on design specifications. Users can simulate numerous operational scenarios, run multiple tests concurrently, and manipulate time forward or backward to pinpoint and recreate bugs for thorough testing.
Using embedded system simulation in virtual labs eliminates development roadblocks.

Positive Business Impacts

Using Simics allows for simultaneous worldwide development and testing system availability and stability. Any type of configuration can be set up and deployed to be utilised by any user in any location. Plus, by removing reliance on physical hardware organisations have less hardware to house, maintain, and service. All of these elements come together to provide numerous business and technology benefits:

  • Increase developer productivity: Simics makes it possible for development teams to adopt agile methods while providing better visibility and increasing collaboration. Every member of the team can access identical simulation environments so no one has to wait for another user to be done with their testing – development can continuously move forward.
  • Improve product quality and security:Simics streamlines development and includes advanced tools like time manipulation, fault injection, and automation for comprehensive testing. Testing can be completed before deployment as well as after to ensure ongoing security.
  • Support collaboration: It’s much easier for teams to work together when they share a single simulated system. Everyone is working with the same environment and can easily share, communicate, and exchange data as needed.
  • Reduce CapEx and OpEx: The benefits listed above all come together to provide financial benefits for the organisation. Improved collaboration, testing accuracy, and compressed time cycles mean products get to market faster. What’s more, virtual labs remove the costs associated with maintaining and updating physical hardware labs.
Simics can simulate a variety of hardware types and OSes along with a variety of peripherals, boards, and networks – so you can simulate anything.

Use Embedded System Simulation to Improve Development

Embedded development is changing. To stay competitive, organisations can no longer rely on traditional development processes and physical labs. They must unleash their potential by using simulation in virtual labs to increase collaboration, ensure higher quality and security, and improve the entire embedded development cycle.

Simics is the simulation solution that makes it all possible. It allows development teams to simulate anything from the simplest to most complex systems. Regardless of physical location, all users can ensure they are testing on the exact same configuration and work together to get high-quality products to market faster.

Courtesy of Wind River.

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